Doctor: Duval should consider delaying start of school year

Duval County schools scheduled to reopen Aug. 10

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A local doctor says the Duval County school district needs to consider delaying the start of the school year.

Dr. Mobeen Rathore, an infectious disease expert who has been advising Duval County Public Schools throughout the coronavirus pandemic, made that recommendation as part of a presentation to a group of parents and teachers during a virtual meeting Wednesday evening.

News4Jax was told not to record audio of the meeting because of the fluidity and ever-changing nature of the pandemic. Though during the meeting, Rathore said some serious considerations have to be made, including a postponement of the school year.

It’s less than a month until Duval County schools are scheduled to reopen, and a lot could change in that time. The state of the pandemic could get better, but Rathore said it could also get much worse come Aug. 10.

“I hope I’m wrong. The projector would go down, but it doesn’t look like it,” Rathore said.

RELATED: Duval County back-to-school plan a ‘fluid’ situation

Rathore said he was in contact with DCPS leaders just hours before the meeting and advised them that a delayed start to the school year should not be written off.

“Based on the current trajectory of increase in the number of cases of COVID-19 in Northeast Florida, in Duval County, it appears like that this is going to get only worse,” Rathore said. “So it is advisable, I think, to delay the opening of the school til after the RNC convention is done so that we are not placing our children and teachers at an increased risk.”

The Republican National Convention adds even more variables to what Rathore described as a seemingly impossible equation.

Rathore also acknowledged the challenge being facing by local school districts under state orders, saying that one solution cannot and should not be applied universally to all communities.

“I think we have to be flexible and nimble about it. Each school district should have the ability to decide based on their situation the prevalence of disease and infection in their community. What else is going on in the community, whether they open it when they open and how they open? One size fits all is a dangerous idea,” Rathore said.

This all comes ahead of a special Duval County School Board meeting at 1 p.m. Thursday.